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“Variances are tough, and they’re really agonizing for all of us,” Molly Shodeen, area hydrologist with the DNR, told council members before the vote. But each variance from rules protecting the St. Croix weaken the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and could lead to its “death by a thousand cuts.”
“The goal is to protect the scenic quality of the river,” she said. “Increasing the existing roofline [of the Quinns’ home] is a detriment to the scenic quality of the river.”
Feelings among council members clearly were strong. “What’s the DNR trying to accomplish here?” asked Joe Paiement, Lakeland’s acting mayor.
City Council Member Amy Williams said the Quinns are trying to be sensitive to the aesthetics of the river. “I still feel strongly we made the right decision,” she said. The council carefully looked at balancing the interests of the Quinns with that of the community at large. In the end, she said, “we will have something that is better than what is there now.”
Shodeen said the DNR will review Lakeland’s decision, and the legal arguments supporting it, then decide on its response.
The actions in Lakeland, and whatever precedent is set in the DNR’s possible response in light of the Hubbard decision, are being closely watched by advocates for the river, said Deb Ryun, executive director of the St. Croix River Association.
They fear that a hodgepodge of local zoning ordinances, and an inclination of local governments to be protective of their own residents, could slowly erode the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. “As we pick away at it, what are we going to have left?” Ryun said.
Her group is not anti-development, she said, but advocates smart development that still values and protects the river for the pristine resource that it is.
Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson